- Nov 30, 2015
Google's own carrier offering definitely has appealing features.
If you're an Android enthusiast, you likely know about Google Fi (formerly Project Fi). But that doesn't mean you necessarily know everything about it. And now that the service has opened up to everyone with an unlocked phone, there's a lot to get caught up on. So we're here to give you the high-level view at the carrier option that comes directly from Google. Namely, just what the heck it is, how it works compared to other carriers and maybe a few reasons why you'd want to try it.
The latest Google Fi news
January 14, 2019 — Google Fi now supports RCS messaging, faster LTE coming to 33 international countries
We're now into week 2 of 2019, and to make sure we start the new year off right, Google Fi
RCS messaging offers a lot of improvements over SMS, such as read receipts, higher-quality photos, group chatting, and more. Starting today, all "designed for Fi" phones will have RCS turned on out of the box. If you're using a compatible Fi Android phone, you just need to make sure you're using
Over the coming weeks, Google Fi will be upgrading its service in 33 of the international countries it works in to support faster 4G LTE speeds. Countries getting these faster speeds include France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and more. Check out the photo below for the full list.
January 11, 2019 — Google Fi says it told T-Mobile and Sprint to not sell customer location data
On January 8, a fairly unsettling report came out to shed light on the fact that wireless carriers are
Per a Google Fi spokesperson that spoke with
We have never sold Fi subscribers' location information. Google Fi is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) and not a carrier, but as soon as we heard about this practice, we required our network partners to shut it down as soon as possible.
It's unclear when exactly Google told Sprint and T-Mobile to stop doing this for its customers, but it's a step in the right direction nonetheless.
November 28, 2018 — get a travel gift card for the full amount of any phone purchase
To celebrate the launch of Google Fi, there's
If you're already a Google Fi customer, it's easy to make the purchase
November 13, 2018 — Google Fi now encrypts all data traffic
Speaking of which, Google introduced a new enhancement which will continuously monitor the connection quality on your phone and seamlessly swap between WiFi and cellular traffic when it needs to. Cellular-Wi-Fi handoffs are nothing new either, but the standard implementation usually waits until you're completely out of range of your WiFi network before it switches to mobile data, by which time you may already have issues using your apps despite technically being connected. This change should make it more proactive and aggressive to ensure you're always on a connection that's actually usable.
As the feature is considered in beta, you'll need to opt-in using the Google Fi mobile app. Your phone will need to be on Android Pie, and must be fully compatible with Google Fi in order for it to work. Google says it may take the whole part of a week for the feature to reach everyone, so sit tight if you're not seeing it right away.
September 19, 2018 — Project Fi credits can now be shared in family plans
Google frequently gives out Fi credits with various promotions, and while these are great, they've previously been locked to the user that received them. In other words, if you got Fi credits are part of a family plan, those credits couldn't be used towards your group's entire bill.
As of today, that's now changing!
According to a Googler on the
August 15, 2018 — Project Fi is getting rid of text forwarding
Project Fi is chock-full of helpful features, one of which is text forwarding — the ability to have all of your text messages that are sent to your Fi number also go to other numbers you set up.
Unfortunately, text forwarding
Call forwarding will continue to work (i.e. calls to your Fi number are sent to other numbers), but text forwarding will be no more. Google didn't provide any reasoning for this move, but in any case, we'll play our sad violin for any of you that relied on it. And in any case, if you need access to your Fi texts on other devices you can
June 5, 2018 — You can now add kids under 13-years-old to your family plan
Leveraging its Family Link suite of digital parental tools, Google now allows you to add kids to your Project Fi family plan that are under 13-years-old.
After making a Google account for your kiddo(s) through Family Link, you'll be able to add them to your Project Fi plan like any other adult user. They'll have access to all of the features everyone else on your plan has, but of course, you can limit how much time they spend on their phone through the Family Link app.
Kids also cost the same at $15/month for the Fi Basics (calling and texting) and then $10 per GB of data they use.
What you need to know about Google Fi
What is Google Fi?
At the highest level, Google Fi is a phone carrier operated by Google. It works by giving you mobile data service on three mobile networks (T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular),
It's all about simplified billing with no hidden fees or overages.
Google Fi is focused on simplified billing. You pay $20 per month for unlimited talk and texting, and a flat rate of $10 per gigabyte of data used after that. At least, until you hit 6GB ($60) of usage for the month. Then you hit
You don't have to pay for an 'unlimited' plan every month, but you get the protection of one.
The huge benefit here is that you don't have to pay for an "unlimited" plan every month — it's simply there if you use beyond 6GB of data in a month. All other months when you use less than 6GB of data your bill will be less than $80, dependent on your usage. Bill Protection applies to international data usage the same as home usage, which is a massive benefit for frequent travelers.
You can also set up a "Group Plan" on Google Fi for up to six people to share a single account and billing source. With a Group Plan, all of the same features of an individual plan apply, but you save $5 per person per month on the base plan charge. Billing is handled centrally by the account owner, along with data limitations for each user (if needed) — Bill Protection data usage limits are also handled on a per-person basis. Google Fi charges the group owner for everyone's bill collectively, but can also
How does Google Fi work?
Google Fi works with a special SIM card — and a little software on your phone — that can authenticate you on
You get the power of three mobile networks, plus Wi-Fi, in a single SIM
In addition to the three traditional mobile networks, Google Fi also leans heavily on Wi-Fi whenever possible, whether you're around a known network or not. As you move around, your phone will use the "Wi-Fi assistant" to constantly search for and connect to open Wi-Fi networks, using a database of known good networks that can provide a solid connection. Whenever your phone connects to Wi-Fi, the connection is routed through a VPN for your safety — and you won't notice anything different in the phone experience, except you're no longer paying for mobile data.
Calls and texts work on Wi-Fi just as they do when you're on mobile data, and you can continue your phone call as your phone switches between networks.
When you use Google Fi, you also get
What about international usage?
Google Fi works internationally in over 170 countries around the world with no additional cost for data use or texting, which is one of its biggest differentiators from other carriers. You can call at a flat rate of $0.20/min to any number while on the cellular networks abroad, or pay much lower rates when calling on Wi-Fi. You can also call back home to the U.S. on Wi-Fi for free. Data used internationally is charged the exact same as it is at home, going into the same $10 per gigabyte usage, and Bill Protection kicks in at the same 6GB limit.
The only catch is that speeds can vary depending on the country you're in, which is to be expected. In experience, we've found full LTE speeds in a variety of countries around Europe and Asia, with the occasional hiccup as the phone switches between roaming partners.
What phones can you use on Fi?
Project Fi, when it launched in 2015, was originally exclusive to a single phone, the Nexus 6. Eventually things opened up with about a dozen supported phones from Google, Motorola and LG. When it finally dropped the "Project" status, Google Fi opened up to any unlocked phone — with some caveats, of course.
Fi's own phones give the best experience, but this is still great with an unlocked phone.
You get a true first-class experience with Google Fi on Google's latest phones, the Pixel 3, 3 XL, 2 and 2 XL. These phones have an eSIM inside that's pre-programmed for Fi, and you can set up an account and connect to its network without putting in a SIM card. Then there are other phones "designed for Fi" you can buy to get the same experience, minus the eSIM: the Moto G6, Android One Moto X4, LG V35 and LG G7. All of these phones have full network switching capabilities, meaning they can seamlessly move between Fi's network partners T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular, plus make smooth transitions between Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile networks using a Google VPN service.
But starting in late November 2018, Google Fi now works with any unlocked phone, with some limitations. Unlocked phones won't be able to take advantage of Fi's network switching, so you'll be using the T-Mobile network primarily, and you don't get Fi's VPN. But you do get the same international roaming deal, plus all of the other Fi features like the great Fi app and simple billing. Yes, that unlocked support also includes iPhones, which is a massive step for Fi. Google Fi even supports iMessage using your Fi number.
Why do I want it?
Well, this is really a personal question of whether you actually
Simplicity in the service and billing are paramount to the experience.
If you're okay with the inherent hassle of switching carriers, and porting your phone number, you don't have many other hurdles to jump over now that Google Fi is open to just about any unlocked phone. You can
Google Fi is worth your consideration.
There are lots of cool features that make Google Fi a good choice, like dramatically simplified billing, Bill Protection to cap your charges every month, seamless international data and calling, and improved network coverage through the use of three carriers and Wi-Fi networks. Each one will have a different amount of draw for different people, but that's a pretty compelling package.
Google Fi's pricing isn't dramatically lower than other carriers out there, and whether it makes a good choice financially for you depends on your data usage and which features you want. We encourage you to do your pricing research before choosing which carrier is the best.
And whether you're still on the fence or just curious about it, be sure to
Updated November 2018: "Project" no more! Google Fi is official and there are big changes.